To cut metals and other materials of varying thicknesses, one of the most common techniques used is plasma cutting, using CNC plasma tables. This process uses a torch that blows inert gas out of a nozzle at a very high speed. Coinciding with the blown gas, an electrical arc is formed from the nozzle, through the gas, to the metal or other material being cut. In this process, some of the gas is turned to plasma and becomes hot enough to melt the material that is being cut. Plasma arcs are about 45,000 degrees Fahrenheit. With the high speed at which the plasma is moving, the melted material is blown away from the cut.
CNC or computer numerical controlled processes are used widely in commercial applications of plasma cutting. With CNC plasma tables, the path of the torch is controlled by a computer, using specialized software. This has the ability to produce cleaner cuts. This method has application in many industries. Plasma cutters were introduced to the HVAC industry in the 1980’s, and since that time, they have greatly increased efficiency in the industry. Although plasma tables are suitable to cut materials of small or large thicknesses, laser cutting is being used more and more often for thinner materials.
In the past, CNC plasma tables were all horizontal. More recently, these systems are vertical, which allows them to take up less floor space. This also provides more flexibility, faster operation, and the highest possible level of safety. Another more recent development is that plasma torches are being made which produce a thinner plasma arc. The thinner the plasma arc, the more precise the cuts can be. These machines are able to function with almost the same level of precision as lasers. They also produce cuts that require less or no additional finishing. While older units are typically heavy, newer units are more lightweight, but usually exceed the abilities of older systems.
There are many companies that make CNC plasma tables. In the past, plasma cutting systems were only found in commercial welding shops. This was primarily due to the prohibitive cost. Plasma torches are becoming less expensive, however, and therefore somewhat more common in commercial and personal settings. Some basic machines are not computer controlled. These machines are primarily used by hobbyists.
Because of the nature of the investment required by a plasma cutting machine, it is important that whatever manufacturer you purchase from will provide unlimited long-term technical support. Since it is a very specialized type of system, there are relatively few people who have an intricate understanding of the way these machines work. Even those who have years of experience using a plasma cutter may not have a thorough knowledge of installation, maintenance, and repair of a plasma cutting system. For this reason, it is crucial that long-term technical support be available for consumers of this type of product.
Safety is an important consideration when using CNC plasma tables. Welding goggles with a lens shade of #6 of darker are very important to prevent eye damage while using plasma cutters. A protective apron, leather gloves and a protective jacket are important for preventing burns. It is also very important to use a respirator in order to prevent damage to lungs.